The Mirkwood forest seemed silent that night. Legolas, Greenleaf as translated in the Common Tongue, stretched and proceeded to circle around the Mirkwood borders once more. It sure took some time for Adar to let me go on this guard duty,Legolas thought, as a slight breeze rustled the branches above him. This guard duty, which Legolas was patrolling right now, was a one-man – Elf – job and took excellent agility, night eyes, and sharp ears, which the Prince of Mirkwood all possessed. Still then, his father, Thranduil, King of Mirkwood, had been reluctant for his son to go. There were many dangers creeping in the forests in the night, and just more than insects on the ground.
Gelmir, his stallion, suddenly snorted, which could mean that danger was ahead.
‘What is it, friend?’ Legolas murmured to Gelmir in the language only Elves and animals knew. ‘What troubles you?’ Legolas was riding bareback, like all the other Elves, and without a rein he let Gelmir direct him to where he wanted Legolas. Legolas drew his twin knives, which gleamed in the twilight light of Mirkwood. Although a bright, full moon was shining, the foliage of the trees did not let much moonlight or starlight down onto the ground. It didn’t matter. Elves had better night sight than most races.
The twin knives were beautifully crafted: the blades were a pure silvery white, as with the hilts. Leaves and designs, knots and stems were crafted into the hilt, and there was a green stone at the middle. The pair fit the Elf’s hands perfectly. Legolas held them in attack position, resting the blades on his wrists lightly. Without making a sound, he approached the place where Gelmir had directed him.
There was a flash of eight red eyes, and a muffled scream. The Wood Elf knew what that meant: a giant spider and perhaps its victim, just recently captured. Giant spiders had been skulking in the Mirkwood since the Second Age, when Greenwood – or Greatwood as it was sometimes called – had grown darker and darker, thus gaining the permanent name ‘Mirkwood.’ All Wood Elves were trained to know how to kill giant spiders, or at least run away from them or heal the poison they could affect. Clearly this victim that Legolas had just heard was not very old, not very experienced, or not a Wood Elf.
If the victim was to be not very experienced, Legolas could sympathize with him (or her). He could clearly remember the first giant spider kill he had gone through, and it had not been pleasant. He would not be standing on that spot if one of his friends had not seen the giant spider from the behind.
First things first,Legolas thought, and moved into the attack. After three seconds he jumped out onto the spider, which hissed and tried to get him off. After it realized that the Wood Elf would not get off as well as it thought he would, the giant spider attacked itself.
The skirmish was a short one. The giant spider had not been in adulthood very long, and it was fairly small and – Legolas grimly smiled at this - not very experienced. He swept away the remains of the giant spider – some detached, hairy black legs and an abdomen with red dimming eyes. He then searched for the victim – or, if he or she had been more unfortunate, the remains of the victim.
Legolas found her quickly enough. She was leaning against a tree, her eyes clenched. Legolas guessed that she had tried to fight, for she had scratches on her hands and her hair was mussed. Of course she had not won the fight; she was only equivalent to the age of six in Human age. She was being nuzzled by a gray pony, looking worried and concerned about her master. She probably had been asleep, Legolas mused. Otherwise the giant spider wouldn’t have caught her off-guard, even the smallest of children were trained how to hide or escape from the beats.
The Wood Elf knelt by her and soothed her. “It’s alright, little one,” he said, all the while checking her for injuries that the giant spider might have caused. “It’s gone now.”
The little girl opened her eyes. She was shivering, although she was an Elf and her cape protected her from the cold. Legolas had never seen her before. She had an open face with twinkling – in this case, with fear – dark green eyes, and her golden curls were tied up, probably to disguise herself as a boy and to keep from it to tangle with who knew what. She had the air of quiet sorrow about her, and the Prince of Mirkwood could understand that, as well.
After the Prince of Mirkwood had calmed her down enough, as she sobbed for some time – Legolas patiently let her do so, and rocked her gently – he asked the question that had been bothering him for the last minutes he had been with her. “Why did you come out, this late? And without anybody to look out for you?” The elfling had no reason to come out; she wasn’t a prisoner trying to escape, nor was she kept here against her will. So why had she been out here, in the middle of the night, so far away from the palace?
The girl, apparently out of tears, sniffed, trying to regain her composure. She could not have known who Legolas was. Maybe she did. But all was forgotten, proper manners, dignity, everything except what was troubling the girl.
“I – I was trying to see the stars.”
Legolas puzzled over this answer. See the stars? And almost get killed? Although Elves had a special contact with nature, it wasn’t as much as being killed over it. Also, she could feel the presence of stars, and feel satisfied. Most Elves were.
“My – my –“ The girl started crying again. Legolas shushed her and waited until she could speak again.
“My mother died!”
Legolas felt numb, shocked, angry, distracted. Of course. Why hadn’t he known? His mother had died, as well. He should have understood. Although he also felt sorry for the girl for upsetting her, and of her mother dying, but just then his own memories came flooding back. The pain, the torture of his mind and heart….
The girl went on. “My grandmother… She said when people die, they turn into shooting stars. Is that true?”
“Of course it’s true,” Legolas declared firmly. Some people might be displeased when they found out that he had not taken the girl straight home, but he had to ease the pain. Legolas himself had nobody to ease his pain to, when he had found out his mother had died. Even his closest friends did not understand, and his father was too grief-stricken to soothe his son’s sadness.
So everything fit now. The girl wanted to see her mother again, even as a shooting star.
“Come on,” Legolas said, taking the girl’s hand.
Several minutes later they were there. It was a patch of clearing, only seven feet or so across. Only bushes covered that spot, and trees stood on its circumference. There was light, now, as the moonshine and star shine could pierce through the foliage with its silvery hands. “See, up there?” Legolas asked. “You can see the stars.”
The girl stood, awe-struck. Legolas did think it was a breathtaking place; the stars were countless and – somehow, elusive – stirring up past memories. Legolas stood lost in his own pool of thoughts, until the girl moved, pointing at the deep, midnight sky.
“Look,” she whispered. “There’s Mother.” She was pointing at a shooting star: silver and golden, flying across the midnight sky as if a swan across a lake.
The Mirkwood forest never seemed to have been more silent that night – and lovely.